A state representative hopes conversations about women’s health will lead to changes in Connecticut law, especially when it comes to endometriosis. That painful condition impacts a woman’s reproductive system.
An Endometriosis Working Group, led by State Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, has been looking at how the condition impacts women.
Now, the group is bringing legislation proposals to the General Assembly.
In a presentation Thursday, women shared painful testimonials of living with the difficult condition.
Endometriosis causes abdominal pain, intensifies cramps and hormonal symptoms, and can even lead to infertility.
“One in 10 individuals with a uterus will experience endometriosis, and on average, it takes 10 years to diagnose,” Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, (D) 18th District of West Hartford and Vice Chair on Public Health Committee, said.
The Working Group, which is made up of more than 30 people, has been meeting every three weeks since September.
“We heard from many specialists, medical providers, advocates, individuals who focus on endometriosis in communities of color,” Gilchrest said.
Now, they are pushing for legislation to address three major issues when it comes to endometriosis. First and foremost: research.
“There is no known cure for endometriosis. In order to be diagnosed, you actually have to have surgery,” Gilchrest said. “We have partnered with Jackson Laboratory and UConn Health, and are hoping that we can work with the Department of Public Health so that we can begin to give researchers the tools they need to create some treatments and some testing so that women don't have to undergo this invasive surgery to find out if, in fact, they have endometriosis.”
Secondly, they want new laws to curb misinformation.
“Have healthcare providers trained in the state of Connecticut on what endometriosis is,” Gilchrest said.
Finally, the group wants to create a school nurse training program.
“For the young women in our state, to try and prevent them from experiencing what others have gone through, this again, being treated like they are crazy, or what they're experiencing is all in their head,” Gilchrest said. “We're trying to get a school nurse training passed, so that at a younger age, individuals recognize what endometriosis is.”
Now, the group’s goal is to bring their proposals to the state Capitol in the form of two bills: a public health bill would create a partnership between the Department of Public Health and researchers, while an education bill would cover training for health care providers and school nurses.
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With a fast-moving legislative session, both potential bills would need to move quickly, with public hearings in the next month and approval by May.
“I think there'd be a lot of relief from women across the state if we were able to move these proposals,” Gilchrest said.
She believes it's important for women’s health to take a more prominent role in Connecticut law.
“This is the beginning. This issue needs a lot of attention,” Gilchrest said. “Women have been ignored for far too long in this country.”